The Trans-Lux High Five Cinema, located near the Durango Mall, will be renamed Storyteller Theatre and several upgrades will go into the seven-screen movie house, including two new screens scheduled to open by the end of March.After an acquisition by Marwit Capital in July 2008, the entertainment division of Trans-Lux Theaters became a new corporation, Storyteller Theatres. The company decided to change the name of one of its two Durango theaters as part of an overhaul of management and operations.
The two-screen Gaslight Theatre, also now owned by Storyteller, won't get a name-change but is scheduled to get sound and picture upgrades.
Tom Becker, general manager of Storyteller, said viewers won't be impacted by a shift at the corporate level.
"We're still a part of the Durango community," he said. "It's, for all intents and purposes, a name change."
The name on the new sign at the High Five that faces the highway will not have the movies listed, but Becker said safety was a factor in the decision.
"We consider that sign not only unattractive but dangerous as well," he said.
The High Five sign's current 10-inch letters are visible to drivers from about 450 feet away, but they don't become legible to most drivers until 100 feet away. This, he said, slows traffic when some drivers attempt to read the sign, and could cause an accident.
Theaters with signs with movable letters also expose themselves to liability from letters that fly off in heavy winds. Becker said they can be difficult to maintain and aren't as necessary in a day when theater-goers leave for the theater knowing which movie they want to see.
Drivers should get used to theater signs without movies listed on their signs.
"The industry's heading in that direction," he said.
Applications for variances to alter the current High Five sign go to the Durango Design Review Board on Monday. The size of the prominent pylon sign is planned to be reduced from 250 square feet to 224, but Trans-Lux wants to add three more neon signs on the Trans-Lux Drive parcel.
That main Frontage Road sign will exceed the city sign code by 24 feet; at 426 feet total, the four proposed signs will exceed the current city sign code significantly. Tim McHarg, a planner with the city, said he thinks it's unlikely the board will approve the variances.
"The staff recommendation is that they make a finding at the meeting that meets (sign code) criteria," he said.
For the board to grant a variance, Storyteller would have to prove hardship, said McHarg. But "the Design Review Board is very careful about the sign code," he added.
Durango Chamber of Commerce Director Jack Llewellyn was relieved Storyteller was putting new money into its Durango locations. He said movies make a pleasant diversion in uncertain times. "People can still go to a theater and just relax and escape reality," he said.
The news agency Reuters reported last year that trips to the theater remain affordable to most families and theaters are bringing in more revenue than sports events and theme parks combined. The theater industry has experienced growth for the last 40 years.
Other planned upgrades for the Storyteller Theatres near the mall include rocking-chair seating, digital picture display, additions to the concessions kiosks, landscaping and improved speakers.